It’s the first Friday since the marriage of the King and the new Queen of Ros. All the townsfolk are surrounded the town square, waiting for their new rulers to come and join in with the annual spring festival.
The people of Ros are in a hurry as the carriage containing the King of and Queen Of Ros gets closer and closer towards the brightly decorated town centre. Several stores have popped up around the place, brightly coloured tents used for shade from the shining spring sun. Intricate textiles are on sale by one of the old ladies, fresh fruits sold by her son and husband, and the town's jeweller even has his most exquisite pieces on half price. Many women are standing close by the jewellery stand with their husbands who are looking rather pale at the price. Meanwhile, the children are plucking the blooming flowers that surround the busy town.
When the royal couple exits the white and blue carriage, the people cheer and yell praises for their new monarchs.
King Kiwoon smiles and waves. His thin lips curve into a smile and his hooded deep drown eyes crinkle at the sides. He’s a handsome man, with strong features fit for a king.Queen Jiyeon is a blooming flower with her soft features, and even though she stands a good inch above her husband, she’s dainty and graceful, with long soft inky hair and porcelain-like skin.
She smiles to the crowd, and the flowers around her look like they are wilting in comparison to her blooming grin. King Kiwoon threads their fingers together, placing a chaste kiss on his Queen’s knuckles. Jiyeon laughs and her smile widens.
After their quick speech, the festival is in full kick. Jolly music is played by the food stalls, dancers prancing around in bright colours, and cheers and lyrics spilling from the citizens' mouths.
His heart beats hard in his chest, little legs falling out from underneath his tiny body as he tumbles over a tree root sticking out from the earth. He whimpers, fat tears brimming in his eyes as he stays seated on the ground until a low rumble comes from the sky and then big, fat raindrops fall from the sky and he stumbles back to his feet, crying out.
The townspeople still laugh joyfully even when it begins to rain. The music grows louder to be heard over the patter of rain falling. However, the Queen‘s smile falls after a few minutes and her eyes narrow as if she’s searching for something. She lets go of her husband's hand who follows her without hesitation. “Jiyeon, my dear,” He starts but the woman doesn’t pay him any mind.
He emerges from the thick leaves, almost falling on his bottom in one of the many flower beds. He braces his hands out in front of him, his palms landing softly into the damp earth. He stumbles backwards before breaking out into a waddled run to seek dryness. He stops by the jeweller's tent, eyes wide with wonder as he takes in the scenery.
“Something is wrong,” she murmurs, gaining a frown from her husband. He gestures for the guards to stop following them and leads Jiyeon further away from prying ears. “What’s wrong?”
“Can you not feel it?” Jiyeon mumbles, fingers brushing by the petal of a white poppy. “No…?” Kiwoon answers unsurely. “Call off the festival.” She abruptly says as her eyes catch something in the distance.
He lets out a sniffle, waddling over to the lanky man running the store. He tugs on his trousers and reaches his arms up, wanting to be held and feel safe. “Up,” he fusses softly but the man just gazes down at him with narrowed eyes.
“What?” Kiwoon grunts, almost in disbelief that his Queen would call such a gorgeous event off. He’s about to protest but then the cold tickles mercilessly at the bare skin on his arms and he turns to face his wife, still sceptical. “Hurry,” She urges but she’s cut off just as she opens her mouth again by a small child’s distressed cry.
It ripples harshly through the air and he breathes in heavily, sucking air into his lungs before he lets out another cry, fat tears running down his cheeks and any fists reaching out to the man in front of him.
A woman, with a child on her hip, runs up to the man in form of her and promptly slaps him hard across the face. “How dare you!” She spits. “You cannot pull a child around like that! How could you!” She scolds harshly before then slipping away and approaches the tiny blubbering baby on the ground. As she wraps her hands around his small waist, she’s sent flying, pain striking through her arms as if her arms are being broken in two. The child cries harder, sitting upright with his fists now covering his eyes instead of reaching out for comfort.
King Kiwoon grips harshly onto Jiyeon’s wrist, pulling her closer to him as the guards swarm around them, a few nearing the screaming baby wearily. “Don’t!” Jiyeon yells out, eyes narrowing at the guards. “Do not move.” She demands, taking step herself, breaking the grip King Kiwoon had on her wrist. “My Q—“
“Do not question it.” Her voice is low, a warning sign.
Nevertheless, the guards ignore her command and continue to inch closer to the boy. The sky cackles threateningly. The child continues to wail and the sky to cries with him.
Lightning hits down with a booming crack, a nearby tree turning up into flames before the rain doses down harder and harder just as the child screams.
The townspeople shout, scurrying for cover wherever they can.
Jiyeon blinks and then the guards are flying through the air, a force rumbling deep through the ground. Her feet feel the deep vibrations underneath them and she gaps audibly.
The child lifts his head, fists dropping from his face.
She blinks softly at the child and her lips part.
She unwaveringly grips onto the King’s shoulder, pushing him back gently. “Stay,” She murmurs, eyeing the child.
Large reddened lilac orbs are flickering around the town hurriedly, fear glazed over the mesmerising orbs.
With careful steps, she edges closer to the boy, the townspeople gasping in surprise and fear as she continues. They clutch onto one another as they yell for their Queen to go back, to safety. The Queen flashes a smile. When he notices her, she stops briefly before smiling and bending down to her knees and opening her arms.
The white material pools over the ground as she bends down. The jewels embodied in the grown glimmer as lightning flashes in the sky and the golden crown rested on her head shines. She smiles, warm and safe.
“It is okay, Child,” she whispers, a hand slowly reaching out to cup the toddlers rosy, plump cheek.
He whimpers, his body leaning forward to fall into the open arms of the woman.
Her fingers brush at purple tulips in his wet hair as she stands with the tiny toddler bundled in her arms. He’s crying begins to cease and the sky follows along until it’s steadily raining, soft water droplets wetting the earth and everyone out of a shelter.
“My Queen, you shouldn’t be tangled with the lives of orphan children.” Someone nearing her remarks.
Ignoring the comment, the Queen gazes fondly down at the calming boy in her arms.
“He will be a force to reckon with,” She eyes the blooming purple tulips in his hair.
“What do you think you’re doing?” The king screeches as he storms into the room, wooden doors slam behind him heavily.
Queen Jiyeon’s scowls at the rude entrance and the toddler bundled in her arms clings harder onto her body. “Jiyeon…” He mumbles with a heavy sigh. “You can’t just take a child. Moreover, not an orphan.” The child whines loudly as he gazes over at King Kiwoon with curiosity. “All more reason why he should be here.” She blasts back, an arm protectively shielding the boy in her arms.
“Jiyeon!” He cries, exasperated at his wife’s behaviour. “Why?” She asks with a demanding tone. “He’s a baby, Kiwoon. He needs protection.”
The child wiggles out of her hold and gazes up at the queen before he smiles a little toothy grin. “Baby!” He bubblers and then points to himself with a little chubby finger. “Chanhee,”
Jiyeon smiles down at him and gathers him back up in her arms, slowly rocking him. “You are called Chanhee?” The toddler giggles softly. He can’t be more than two years old.
Kiwoon slumps back, palm pressed to his forehead. “The orphanage can do that! You are a queen!”
“Which gives me more reason to help him!” She glares harshly at him.
“Haven’t you seen?” Jiyeon breathes lowly after breaking off the stare. She places the young boy on the velvet lounge and saunters over to her husband, holding his larger hands in hers. His eyes narrow as a frown overtakes his face, obviously confused by his wife’s sudden change.
Jiyeon lets out a small scoff of disbelief. “You didn’t,” she rasps as if she’s dissatisfied. The king swallows thickly, eyes drifting over to the child.
He’s on his knees, draped over the golden arm of the lounge as he reaches his arms out. Large inky eyes stare at him and his little button nose scrunches up and he lets out a whine, making grabbing hands to Jiyeon. His hair is the darkest shade of midnight, lips and cheeks rosy pink contrasting against his pale complexion.
“I don’t understand, my dear.” He admits, still looking over at the boy.
He can sense something. Something different about the young child, but he can’t for the sake of him figure it out. But as he struggles to tear his gaze away, something about him made him uncertain. And when he eventually tears his eyes away from the little one to his wife she has a seriousness look cast over his features.
“Not many do.” She breathes, dragging his body along with her as she nears the child. She leases her grip on his hands as she takes the boy back into her arms and now he can see he’s dressed in a tiny shirt, which is still too big of a fit for his little body.
The boy eases in her arms, his head burying in the junction of her neck as his eyes flutter shut, long eyelashes brushing over his cheeks.
“Purple tulips,” Jiyeon announces abruptly. “Do you know the meaning of the flower?” Where Kiwoon was schooled in academics, battle strategies and leadership, a king in the making, Jiyeon had spent her young days roaming the royal gardens back in her home Kingdom of Serid, leaning every single meaning from every flower her eyes had ever set on. “Rebirth, royalty and strength. That is what it represents.” Kiwoon breaks eye contact away from the woman with a scoff of disbelief. “You cannot judge him by a mere flower—“
“If I judged everyone by a mere flower, I would have never accepted your marriage proposal,” She spits out and Kiwoon doesn’t understand at all. He’s known the woman for years before they were of age to marry and he’d never seen this side of the softly spoken woman who carried herself with dignified grace. Kiwoon scoffs, looking away before breaking out into a laugh.The small one in Jiyeon’s arms lifts his head.
Kiwoon freezes, rigid on the spot as the little one turns his head towards him, hooded brown eyes meeting doe-like lilac ones. And even when a sudden searing pain enters his head, he cannot bear himself to turn away from the little one’s unusual eyes.
His chapped lips move, the strangled whisper of, “He’s charmed,” wafts from him before he crumbles down.
The little boy with bright purple orbs is seated on the floor of the King’s study, playing with a teddy doll Jiyeon had given him earlier in the day. The King watches the boy anxiously with watchful eyes.
He’s heard of charmed ones, but he’d only read about them in books when he was younger. Now, he is sitting at the large wooden desk, books containing everything about the charmed ones sitting open.
The two-year-old at merely looked him in the eyes and he had been unconscious for hours. He skims over the passage where a list of known charms are. He grows frustrated as he doesn’t find a charm to put to Chanhee. There are small things like music, poetry, art and then there's more complicated thing such as, healing, telekinesis and telepathy and he looks to the boy before shaking his head. If anything, Chanhee could do something terrifying rather than anything good or useful.
The little one blubbers as he stands to his feet, reaching up to touch a rouge purple tulip on the King’s desk, courtesy of the Queen without a doubt and the King leans back in his chair as the life is sucked out of the flower right before his eyes.
Kiwoon stands abruptly, scaring the little one in the process.
He looks down at the frightened child, a sly smile peeking at the corners of his lips. “You’ll be unstoppable.”
The walls turn into a blur of colours as he runs down the endless halls, bubbling laughter filling the castle walls as the five-year-old runs away from his mother who’s trailing behind him, yelling out for him to come back and bathe like a good boy.
He squeals loudly as he runs into one of the attendant's legs, the woman screams with him bracing herself on the nearby wall as the little prince zooms off after flashing one of his heart-shaped smiles. He continues to run through the castle until he halts suddenly, not recognising the area he’s in. There's a strange sound coming from the right, and being the curious child he is, he peeks his head around the corner.
He gasps at the scene in front of him.
Men and teenage boys have filled one of the courtyards he’s never seen before, swords raised high in the air and sword clashing against each others. He stands at the entrance for the next few minutes, eyes watching the fluid movements of their bodies. None of the men notice the young prince standing still until his name is shouted over the grunts of the knights in training and then numerous pairs of eyes focus on his small frame being bundled up in the queen’s arms.
“Mother,” he says later that night as he’s seated in the warm bath. “Yes?” He looks wide-eyed at his mother, excitement glowing in those large orbs. “I want to be like them when I’m big!” Jiyeon giggles gently as she pours water over her boy’s head. “Like the knights?” She asks with a broad smile. He nods his head hurriedly.
“Do you really?”
“Yes! I can be big and strong so I can protect you all the time!” Her heart flutters in her chest, heartstrings aching with love. “Oh Chanhee,” She sighs blissfully.
He smiles with an added laugh and Jiyeon thinks the purple tulips were right since the beginning.
It hits him when he turns nine.
After two years of attending the knights training every week and being placed in the corner to watch them instead of being taught, he has a sudden realisation.
No matter how hard he will try, they’ll never accept him. His heart throbs in his chest at the acknowledgement, the blur of trees in his vision feel as if they are caging him in and the stares from the knights around him piercing through him like a thousand shards of glass.
He crumbles to a shuddering heap on his bed, tears relentlessly spilling from his eyelids and his chest feels like its being crushed under the weight of disappointment.
He barely registers his Mother slipping into his bed beside him, tucking his body close to her, a hand cradling his head and brushing through his locks.
Jiyeon cuddles the crying child, allowing him to wet her nightdress with his tears. Her eyes are hard as she stares out in the distance. She had known since the day she brought the distressed baby to the castle. She had known, but she had hoped for the Kingdoms people to be open-minded and not cause her darling any type of pain because of his roots. He belonged here, right in her arms with the title as the Prince of Ros and if they couldn’t accept that, Jiyeon would try everything to make them realise that the boy in her arms was worthy of the title.
However, after years of watching the boy grow up, she had seen how the bubbling boy had changed when passing by anyone in the castle. He didn’t smile the same heart-shaped smile when he mere months ago, nor did he go out of his way to pick flowers for the maids. He didn’t bother the cooks in the kitchen, instead, he sat on the counter quietly passing ingredients to the head chef. Now he passes quietly by in the halls eyes gazing down at his feet. His smile had simmered down and his melodic laughter was rare to hear.
“My dear,” she murmurs in his hair, lips brushing over the crown of his head. “My little prince,” she continues and a sudden sob racks through her son's little frame. “A-am I not worth it?” He questions with a pained whimper as he lifts his head from his mother's chest with a such a pained look in his eyes that Jiyeon’s heart ripples in her chest and she struggles to force the sudden urge to cry back down her throat. “No, my dear,” her voice stays steady with all of her willpower. “You are worth everything.”
“Then why do t-they treat me like this? A-am I not your son?” His voice is unstable and cracks trough almost every syllable. “You are, you are,” Jiyeon assures, clutching his shoulders firm yet the touch is still gentle and tender. “They just are yet to understand, my love. They just don’t know how special you are.”
Chanhee looks up at her with overbrimming lilac eyes. “I’ll show them, then.”
Days later the training grounds knights are on their knees in the presence of the queen and her son.
Just past Chanhee’s fourteenth birthday, Jiyeon is awoken by a faraway scream that sounds distinctively like Chanhee.
Rushing through her chambers, she breaks into her child’s room placed directly in front of the entry to her quarters. As she arrives there is already a few of Jiyeon’s personal attendants surrounding her son. “Chanhee?” She walks through the path the girls make for her to see the young teen sitting upright, gripping tightly at the sheets that are pulled up to his chin, eyes watery and a look Jiyeon knows all too well.
She turns around and smiles to the attendants. She knows he’d like to talk to her alone rather than around the court ladies.“Excuse us for a moment ladies. I’d like to speak to my son for a while.”
As the room clears out, Jiyeon sits on the edge of the bed and immediately reaches for one of his hands. “What is the matter? Today is training, aren’t you already meant to be in the training grounds?” Chanhee’s mouth opens, open eyes falling from her face to the white cotton sheets, fear and uncertainty clouding his usual dignified demeanour.
“Dear?” Jiyeon runs a thumb across his knuckles.
“I’m sorry,” He whispers so quietly Jiyeon almost doesn’t hear. “For what?” She frowns, taken back from the sudden apology. “I… I thought something was happening,”
She only furrows her brows further, perplexed. “But I didn’t want to believe it because then they’ll really hate me and you and Father will not allow me to train anymore because I’m too different now.” He speaks sorrowfully and Jiyeon’s mouth parts.
“Why do you feel that way?” She wonders aloud and the boy squirms uncomfortably. “I… everyone says that women and bearers are weak! I don’t want to be that way!”
“Oh, Chanhee…” She gently grips the sheets from his hands and pulls them gently from his hands. The boy chokes on his tears as his mother moves her eyes back to his face from the growing stain under him. “You could have told me. I’ll always listen, you know that. No matter how foolish it may sound to you,”
“I know,” He mumbles under his breath. “But I was scared that you and Father wouldn’t let me train anymore… I really still want to.” He says strongly, looking up with determination in his inky eyes. “If you say I can’t, I’ll still go!”
Jiyeon laughs at her son. “Of course you can still go, why does it make you any different, hm? You’ll still be the same,” she says. “You’re just a bit more special than the rest.”
A smile blossoms over his face before he throws his body at her. The Queen presses her lips to the crown of his head.
“Thank you, Mother,” he mumbles into her shoulder. “Of course, my dear. I’m always here.”
She’s always there.
“This is insane, Jiyeon!” The King groans, throwing his hands up in exasperation. “Kiwoon!—“
“Not only is he not my blood son, but the people also have yet to accept that he is a prince—“
“He is our son!” She roars only to be disregarded. “He can inflict pain that could kill and you are so adamant to keep him safe and now he turns out to be a bearer!”
“What is so bad about that!” She yells back, chest heaving with anger. “I mean,” she says as she takes a deep breath. “What does it matter that he is a bearer. Is it not a gift?”
“You want him to be our successor!” Kiwoon shouts, eyes bulging with anger. “And? He is our child?”
“I cannot make some peasant woman's son the heir to my kingdom!” The room turns deadly quiet as Jiyeon slaps him hard across the face, her hand stinging and on fire after. “He is my son! He is not some peasant woman's son.” She spits, eyes narrowing in disgust. “I have raised the boy like any other prince! He is of royalty!”
“He is illegitimate!”
“Is this what it’s about? About blood? He isn’t worthy because I didn’t bear him to you?” Her body trembles with anger, her stinging hard curling at her side.
“I need a true heir to rule my kingdom when I can no longer!” He shoots back.
“He would be more than capable. He can fight and he is the smartest boy—“
“He is a bearer!” Kiwoon shrieks. “What?” Jiyeon mutters, amber eyes glaring up down at the King. “Is this how it is? Because he’s a bearer he’s expected to stand by a man and act like a whore? A breeding machine? Is that how you think it is?” He doesn’t answer and his wife grows furious by the second. “Is it?”
Kiwoon turns around arms folded across his broad chest, facing the window to see the teenaged prince swing a sword at a trained knight who narrowly misses the blade.
“He’ll never be king.”
“Chanhee,” the said male turns to see the king trailing towards him. “Father,” he greets him with a smile. “I wasn’t aware you were coming to my chambers tonight.”
“I wasn’t planning on it,” he answers as he looks around the room. The room is full of books and a few swords and a single bow perched on the wall beside the large bed. “Oh. Well, what can I do for you? Here, come sit. Do you want some tea? I can make some tea?” Chanhee trails off, suddenly aware of his rambling. It wasn’t every day he was visited by his father. Chanhee thinks this must be the first time since he was small. He’s a bit nervous actually.
The King of Ros sits on the blue velvet lounge in the far left corner. Chanhee stays standing in front of him, fiddling with his fingers. His father clears his throat and he swallows thickly. “I have heard.”Of course, he had, it was the talk all around the castle these days. “I—“
“I won't stop,” Chanhee speaks out speedily, looking down at him with frantic eyes. “I won't stop training…” He adds when Kiwoon’s eyebrows knit together.
“I wasn’t going to say you are to stop training. I am here to discuss your future.”
“Oh?” Chanhee breathes out. He’s slightly relieved.
“Sit down, boy.” The king indicates to the matching seat in front of him. Chanhee complies although hesitantly. “You are a bearer, do you know what that means.”
Chanhee’s heart is suddenly in his throat as he waits for his Fathers next words. Of course, he did. He was told from an early age that Princesses were sent far from their homes to marry high ranking officials. And although he wasn’t a woman, his kingdom doesn’t regard him as a man. They treat him more like a woman and he hates it. The thought had flashed through his mind for a while that he might be forced to marry and pop out a few kids for an older man.
“I… I don’t want to be married.” He mumbles, eyes downcast, not daring to look at his father. His father chuckles and he leans closer, fingers grabbing the prince’s chin harshly and holding his head up. “You do not have a say. As soon as Jiyeon took you in to be a prince, you had a future planned out for you. But now, you have no choice in the matter. You will be married on your nineteenth year and you will comply with the responsibility of cursing us with your so-called ‘ability’.” Chanhee’s jaw clenches as well as his fist. The heat of his anger is raging throughout his body and he can feel his charm rise to the surface.
The king stops abruptly when he notices the boy struggling to hide to overtaking lilac in his eyes. Instead of cowering away like he used to just mere days ago, he seizes the prince’s shoulders so tight he’s sure he will have his fingers indented in his skin after. He’s been treated so differently know that he’s presented as a bearer and he hates it.
“You to stay away from danger, hm? It would be such a shame to have the Prince of Ros injured now that your body is your selling point.”
Chanhee’s hands react faster than his mind.
His right-hand clutches around his father’s wrist and he squeezes it tightly as his eyes stare up into the king’s dark irises.
It’s just like the first encounter they had.The king can’t bring himself to look away from the purple orbs once again.
He feels like he’s drowning, falling under his spell from a single look. The room around him feels as if it is filling with water and he’s going down. Down and down until his eyes shut, but he can still see the majestic purple eyes behind his burning eyelids.
He keeps on running and running until his knees buckle and he falls to the ground in the middle of a clearing in the forest. His chest heaves as he tries to steady his rapid breathing.
Like wildfire, it starts in his chest and the silence around him grows louder, ringing out in his head. The pressure builds up to the point he can barely breathe and when it finds the weakest spot, it cracks and it spills out in dangerous waves. A cry breaks from his mouth, angry tears falling from his eyes.
The lush grass around him withers away into nothing, the flowers droop and the trees leaves start to fall in the middle of Summer.
It’s not fair. His people hate him, they don’t accept him and now his own father is belittling him. “I said I’d show them!” He cries out and unknowingly his emotions rage like kerosene on a flame of dread.
Just as he goes to let out another cry it turns into a choked whimper as sudden rustling fills his sensitive ears. His body goes rigid, eyes suddenly dry as he looks around. When a figure jumps out of the darkness, armed with a sword, Chanhee feels his gut clench at the realisation that he doesn’t have anything to protect himself with. He jumps to his feet, purple eyes narrowing at the taller figure advancing on him. “Who are you?” He mumbles, mostly to himself because he’s never seen anyone like this before.
The person is dressed all in black robes that hide them in the darkness of the night. They leap through the air, their sword raised to strike down on his body.
Thunder cracks down and the metal sword flies out of the hand of the assassin. The cloaked figure crashes into Chanhee.
The young boy grips harshly onto a muscled bicep, fingernails digging into clothed flesh. He then meets the man in the eyes and a surge fills his body and suddenly he’s imaging the sickening crack of his neck and the assassin crumbles at his feet just as the hooves of a horse sounds.
The flame finally dies and it feels like he’s just opening his eyes, it’s too late.
He’d killed a man.
He stares down at his hands before he falls to his knees as the knights swarm the clearing. He feels the hot water fill his aching eyes and through his blurry vision he can see the head knight jumping off of his horse and rushing forward.
When arms wrap around his middle and haul him off the ground, he stares unresponsive at his fingers.
“No one told me!” He screams, escaping Jiyeon’s grip. “No one told me I would be able to cause fatal harm!”
“We didn’t know!” Jiyeon grips at the distressed child. Her hand strokes through his hair, trying to calm him. “Chanhee, if you just stayed here.” Chanhee looks up at her, wide-eyed. “Are you blaming me?” He mumbles in disbelief. “You shouldn’t have left, Chanhee! You know the rules!” She counters just as baffled.
“There are too many rules around here!” He exclaims in a shout. “Chanhee can’t do this or this! Why can’t I go out? Huh! Even you go out! It is not fair!” His arms flail about as he yells, brows kitted deeply as he breathes.
“I can go out because I’m not constantly in danger!” Jiyeon retaliates, reaching out for her son after he had flung his body away from her. The room goes quiet as the two stare at each other for a good thirty seconds before Chanhee chides, “Danger?”
Jiyeon visibly hesitates and it only makes the boy with the lilac eyes distressed. “Mother, what danger?”
Jiyeon’s eyes suddenly go cold. “There are people out there,” she points a finger to the window next to Chanhee’s desk. “People that will use you.”
“You are frightened… that you’ll lose me?” His voice decreases and he wanders into his Mother's arms.
Chanhee doesn’t miss the tears that drop from the amber orbs.
Chanhee spends every day to control his charm from this day forward.
Chanhee looks up from his spot on the snowy ground to see a taller boy, probably his age or a little bit older — perhaps seventeen? Chanhee frowns as he holds out a gloved hand. “I am Baek Juho. The head has ordered me to train with you.”
A smile tugs at the sides of his mouth, yet he hides it.
Something inside him stirs and he accepts the cat-eyed boy's hand with a sly smirk. “You're on.”
When Juho is on the ground with the sixteen-year-old Prince’s foot pressed to his hardening chest he finally smiles down at him.
Baek Juho becomes his first friend.
“You called?” Chanhee pokes his head through the crack in the doors and smiles at his mother who’s seated on the lounge in front of a roaring fireplace. The snow is caked against the windows and Chanhee shivers at the sight of the white clouded over the whole Kingdom. Ros was known for its cooler weather throughout Summer and Spring but in tow came a dreadful and bitter Winter.
“I did,” She smiles back and pats at the spot next to her. “Happy birthday, my dear.” Chanhee sends her a shy smile and she laughs. “Ah, it feels just like it was yesterday when I had a naughty toddler running around.” Chanhee smiles at her. “Thank you, mother,” he brings her in for a hug and he melts into her arms. It feels like home.
“Look at you, all grown up, my beautiful boy.” Chanhee bashfully swats her hands away from his face with his nose scrunched up. Jiyeon shakes her head with her arms still wrapped around the now nineteen-year-old. Chanhee manages to escape and he flashes a toothy grin to his mother as she pouts.
“Here,” She fiddles with a black silk pouch by her side and shoves it into her son's hands. Chanhee raises his brows in surprise. “What have you done this time, mother?” He asks somewhat excited and scared at the same time. His mother gives the best presents and gave always has given him something special.
It feels somewhat heavy in his hands and he flashes an indecisive look before his nimble fingers pull at the string. He hesitantly reaches a hand in and when he pulls it out, a smile blossoms across his face, petal lips pulling up at the edges.
In his right hand is a dagger. Its hilt is glassy, containing a single purple tulip inside the breakable material. The blade is an impressive shining gold which glitters in the light. “It’s made from reinforced glass,” the Queen informs. “I asked for it to be extra strong.” Chanhee chuckles, smiling gratefully as he drops the weapon to his lap and pulls his mother into another hug. “Of course you did. I am quite surprised that the flower still looks this beautiful.”
Jiyeon pulls away, face adorned with a bright smile. “I thought it would be a nice gift. Not that I want you to have to use it, of course. But I thought it would help you remember who you are.”
Chanhee cocks his head to the side as he looks at her, confused. “The purple tulip.” She points to the flower encased in glass. “When I first saw you, the flowers were stuck in your hair. They mean rebirth, strength and royalty. I think it was a sign that you weren’t just special but a little miracle.” She smiles fondly. “Whenever I see a purple tulip I think of you.”
Chanhee's lips part and he smiles widely. “Is that why we have an abundance of them in the gardens?” Jiyeon nods. “I asked them a little bit after I took you in.”
Chanhee fiddles with the handle in his hands. His heart swirls with happiness. His mother was always there to make him feel worthy. “Flower language is strange…” is the only thing he can say. “Teach me,” He says, lifting his head and he smiles that bright smile when Jiyeon promises him.
Jiyeon thinks the flowers have no chance when it comes to the beauty of his smile.
Chanhee raises a brow at his Mother who’s holding up the lilac silk nightgown up to his face. “The tailor made this one a little too short for me,” she explains, shoving the clothing into Chanhee’s arms. Chanhee stood about half a head below his father and since his mother was even taller than he was, he sometimes feels like he’s still a child by her side.“Besides, I know how much you’d like to stay in a nightgown all day, so take it. We could match!”
“Mother!” Chanhee laughs. “That's such a childish thing to do.” Jiyeon huffs out in feigned annoyance, but the sly look on her face tells otherwise. And despite the childish manner, not even a few minutes later they’re laying on Chanhee’s large bed, in the matching lilac gowns and giggling like they did when Chanhee was younger.
“And so I told him I’d be up for another spare and he rejected. Rejected! How ridiculous! He’s so hurt that I beat him!” Jiyeon laughs as she listens to Chanhee’s stories about training.
When they fall into comfortable silence Jiyeon jumps in to ask a question with her fingers threading through his messy inky locks. “Have you answered back to King Youngbin,” Jiyeon sniggers at the sudden change of expression on the boys face. The relaxed look flickers to a deep scowl.
He sits up, her hand falling back to her own lap, shakes his head at the Queen. “I don’t wish to be married.”
“Never?” Jiyeon asks with a raise of brows. Her son shrugs, fingers playing with the robe around his body. “Not for an alliance.” He mumbles and the drop in his shoulders show it. “He genuinely likes you.” Jiyeon pushes his shoulder gently. The prince continues to fiddle with his fingers and he sighs loudly. “I know that… that's why it’s making me uncomfortable.”
Their first encounter was a mix of disaster and blooming feelings. Youngbin was fifteen and Chanhee just twelve.
He was practising with the head guard personally when the crown prince had entered the training grounds, eyes glazing over the larger figures until his eyes landed on Chanhee’s smaller body. Youngbin had stared openly at the boy practising his stances with the tall guard with a glitter in his eyes. Chanhee had turned, uncomfortable as if he felt like someone was watching him.
The air had knocked out of Youngbin’s lungs as the younger turned with crystal lavender eyes when they suddenly locked eyes. Chanhee sent the young prince a glare which sent him to his knees, wheezing from the sudden lack of air.
They next met a year later at the Idris annual ball. Youngbin had spotted Chanhee across the room, by Queen Jiyeon’s side. And after slipping away from his own father he had hastily paced over to the thirteen-year-old, sliding his hand into his smoothly. “It’s been a while.” He said. But unlike the last time, Chanhee didn’t react. Instead, he slipped his hand away from Youngbin’s grip and smiled sweetly, greeting him as the crown prince of Idris. And for the three days, Chanhee was in his kingdom, Youngbin had stayed by his side.
It was when the eighteen-year-olds coronation when he met Kang Chanhee for the fourth time. The young charmed one now fifteen, his face slimmer than he remembered and an aura around him that oozed grace and strength. He hadn’t remembered the boy to be so beautiful. His robes as white as snow outside and the curly tufts of his inky hair gently tousled.Once the ball was in full kick, Youngbin saw him standing by his father, slim hands clasped at his front as he stared up at his Father with an expecting look in his eyes. “Chanhee!” The younger turned to face him and Youngbin had been breathless once again by the male. Not because his eyes were lavender and ready to defend him. That wasn’t it this time. Sparkling inky orbs flickered up to his face and Youngbin gulped as he took in the teens features. His lips were fuller, eyes just as wide and with his heart beating rapidly in his chest he confirmed that his smile was just as bright.
It was the morning after and Youngbin was roaming the halls to seek out the Prince of Ros when he heard it.
“How dare you go against me,” he hears the king’s voice and it sent chills down his spine due to iciness in his tone. “You are the one that is the problem,” He took a step forward when he heard the prince hiss. “You only take advantage of me, yet I am still the problem?” His brows knitted deeply, his hand fisted around the golden handle of the door.
“You’re a disappointment.”
Chanhee didn’t say anything, so the king continued. “I told you to not thrust yourself into danger, did I not?”
“I am not fragile! I can protect myself!” He heard the distressed tone in the younger’s voice, yet something made him stay behind the door. “What by? You are a bearer. You have no power.” He had paled and suddenly he was thrusting the door open at the sound of Chanhee’s choked whimper.
The Prince ripped his hands from his Father’s painful vice and stormed past the new King of Idris in a blur of baby blue.'
That was the day Youngbin discovered he was a bearer. And almost three years later, many meeting later Youngbin had finally sent the message over to ask Chanhee to wed him.
“You don’t feel the same?” Jiyeon asks and she gains a curt nod. “It’s not like I don’t like him,” he rambles, lifting his head and looking at her with a jutted bottom lip. “I really do. He’s nice and handsome but I just don’t feel the same… It’s just the way he looks at me that I can’t do…” Every time Youngbin’s eyes find him, his mouth morphs into a beaming smile and the shining look in his honey eyes is filled with adoration. And Chanhee just can’t find it in him to look at him with such love.
He’s brought out of his thoughts as his body jerks along with Jiyeon when the doors to his bedchambers are slammed open, the large wooden doors crashing into the walls with a loud bang. The doors shut behind Kiwoon who has a look of anger cast over his face.
“We need to talk,” Is all he says, eyes pointed at Jiyeon. The Queen sighs loudly, yet she still slips from the bed and nears her husband. Chanhee gingerly places his bare feet on the marble tiles, but Kiwoon shoots him a fierce glare.
“We need an heir,” Jiyeon furrows her brows, thin lips parting. “We have spoken about this before,” She snarls. “And yet we cannot come to an agreement,” Kiwoon retorts back, both as equally hostile.
He can feel his heart beat faster as it sinks lower in his chest, dread building in his stomach.
Jiyeon glances over at him and her gazes softens at the expression on his face.
“I’ve always known you weren’t fond of me,” he whispers. “But do you not think of me as your son?”
For the first time, the King doesn’t answer. His gazes at Chanhee, arms crossed over his chest as his lips press together tightly. At first, Chanhee thinks that he’s finding the right words to say.
But it never comes.
It feels like it’s raining, it feels like rain as it sets in him that the man he regarded to as his father doesn’t think of him as his son. He feels like he’s losing his balance and he breathes in heavily.
He knew Kiwoon wasn’t overly fond of him, but he had looked up to him. He had watched him lead the Kingdom and jotted notes in his brain when his time would come. He feels out of focus and as if there is a wall suddenly trapped between them. His next words are stuck in his throat and as he tries bravely to speak he’s sent back three steps backwards.
“Is that why? Is that why I’ve never been crowned as the crown prince?” His eyes flash over to Jiyeon to find her with wide-eyed. “We’re family…” He mutters shallowly.
“You are not my family,” he says with a stone hard face. “You have never been.”
It starts off slow, then all at once the single loose thread holding him together comes undone. He swallows the pained whimper down and he turns in a flurry of lilac silk, running away from the pain and the crack in his heart.
In the distance, he can hear the sound of his Mother’s anguish being unleashed on the King.
To the man who’s not his father.
His tears bruise at his eyelids on their way out and his chest hurts more than it ever had. His lungs feel like their sucked from all the oxygen around him and he finds it hard to fill them with air which leads him to hyperventilate as he chokes on his tears. He didn’t know how he had gotten here, to the barracks. He’d brought himself here through his hazy mind and clogged vision. The stone walls are cold against his clothed back and the bare skin on his arms and legs are covered in goosebumps from the bitter cold autumn night.
When he hears shuffling, he whimpers aloud, not wanting to be disturbed at the moment. Perhaps it was a wrong move because Jiyeon turns the corner to see him shuddering in a corner. “Oh, my boy,” She hurries over, the bottom of her nightgown dragging across the dirtied stone floor. She drops to the floor, hands reaching out and cupping his soft cheeks now wet with hot tears. “My dear,” She calls out, wiping away the rapid flow of tears from his cheeks with her thumbs.
“I…I” He tries to make out a sentence but he runs out of air again and again. Jiyeon tucks him close to her chest, fingers brushing through his curls ever so gently, tenderly. “I was never good enough.” He sobs. “I should’ve tried harder.”
“No,” Jiyeon breathes. “No, you did everything. You tried so hard yet he was a heartless bastard that cared about your blood rather than your heart. You did nothing wrong. It's all him.” Chanhee bursts out into another round of tears, but this time Jiyeon’s here to catch him if he falls and to wipe away his liquid anguish.
When his cries turn into sniffles, Jiyeon pulls away, her hands clasping her son’s tightly. “You are more of king he could ever be, understand? You are my son, and I am just as valid as what he is and nothing will change that.” He nods, wiping away the wetness on the front of the nightgown.
“Come on, I have something to show you.” Jiyeon hauls him to his feet and he doesn’t let go of her hand as she drags him around the castle to a courtyard Chanhee used to go to when it was spring to catch butterflies when he was young. The butterflies were always here.
“I had something done for you, to remember you if you do end up marrying King Youngbin.” She jokes and nudges him playfully and Chanhee sniffs away some of his tears and looks up at the woman beside him. “I thought it would be nice here. You always played here as a boy,” Chanhee smiles at the fond memories of chasing butterflies and picking flowers for his mother. “I did.”
“Here,” Jiyeon nudges him gently ahead and Chanhee swallows hard as his eyes come into view of what it is.
The statue of his Mother is almost scarily identical, posed with bended knees and hugging the smaller figure closer to her body which is recognisably little Chanhee. “How did you get this here? I thought I would’ve noticed?” He gapes, sniffing away another set of tears threatening to batter against his cheeks.
“Baek Juho is a very loyal man.” Chanhee shakes his head with a fond chuckle. “Of course…”
“It’s beautiful…” Jiyeon sighs, wrapping an arm around her son’s shoulders. “One day we will look at this and we will remember the hard times. You’ll be king the next time we look at it together.” Jiyeon says confidently. “You think?” Chanhee smiles at this. “I know.” She replies and Chanhee can feel his heart grow with determination.
He had tried so hard to please Kiwoon, yet something in him knew no matter what would happen the man would refuse to acknowledge him.
He’s going to show him. And he will conquer.
A determined smile overtakes his lips. “I’ll show them. I’ll show him.”
“I know,” Jiyeon grins down at him.
It’s somewhere in the distance, but he hears a rustle and he turns, his back facing his Mother so he’s facing the courtyard's wall and as his eyes catch the distant figures, his stomach flips and he pales instantly.
A dagger flies by his head.